10 Quick Things: GB vs. WAS

After rewatching Sunday’s game against Washington, here are 10 things worth knowing:

 

OFFENSE

1) Quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t put up gaudy numbers (27 of 35 for 274 yards), but he was outstanding against Washington. He took what the defense was giving and used both his feet and mind to make positive plays while under intense pressure. He also threaded the needle to receivers who were tightly covered. After targeting Davante Adams 45 times in Weeks 3 through 5, Rodgers has made a concerted effort to involve others the past couple of games. On Sunday afternoon, he attempted passes to nine different players.

2) After combining for only 21  catches, 216 yards, and two touchdowns in the first six games, wide receiver Allen Lazard and tight end Robert Tonyan caught nine passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. It was a welcome sight for an offense that had become too reliant on the greatness of Adams. On a less positive note, both players struggled in the run game. That was surprising to see  in the case of Lazard, who’s usually a very effective blocker.

Tonyan (#85) made this 27-yard catch down the seam and in the middle of three defenders. It led to a field goal that gave Green Bay a 24-7 lead

3) Sunday proved that talent will almost always trump schemes and scrappiness. The three interior offensive linemen for the Packers (Jon Runyan, Lucas Patrick, and Royce Newman) were no match for defensive tackles Daron Payne and especially Jonathan Allen. Patrick had an especially rough game, although he did have a huge fumble recovery. Fortunately, the return of center Josh Myers from IR and the move of Elgton Jenkins back to left guard once David Bakhtiari comes off PUP should firm up the middle just in time for the home stretch and the playoffs.

4) Billy Turner faced his third straight elite edge rusher on Sunday afternoon, and the veteran right tackle once again held his own. It wasn’t always pretty, but the former North Dakota State star managed to keep Chase Young from impacting the game. The 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowler had only three pressures in 35 rushes. Turner did allow a first-quarter sack to slippery Montez Sweat, and he was called for a couple of penalties (holding and illegal use of hands), but those were the only real blemishes on what was an otherwise impressive performance.


DEFENSE

1) Outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus didn’t show up in the box score, but he made his presence felt only four days after signing with Green Bay. The longtime Texan drew a handful of double teams on his 15 rushes and made young Taylor Heinicke uncomfortable a few times. The 31-year-old didn’t flash much explosiveness, but he used his hands effectively and showed off a repertoire of moves honed over 10 seasons. It was a solid debut for the newest Packer, who looked very much like the player I watched on tape and wrote about in last week’s scouting report.

2) Rashan Gary is starting to look like a player picked 12th overall in a draft. The third-year pro from Michigan was the best edge rusher on the field Sunday, and that includes Washington’s dynamic duo of Young and Sweat. Gary has reached the point where average offensive tackles aren’t going to slow him down. The next step is for him to start beating higher-level tackles. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to do just that in the weeks and months to come.

In one of the biggest plays of the game, Gary (#52) got around left tackle Charles Leno Jr. and forced a fumble that was recovered by Dean Lowry

3) Eric Stokes gave up a 40-yard touchdown to Terry McLaurin in the first quarter when he played the ball poorly, but he bounced back nicely. The former Georgia star allowed only one reception for six yards the remainder of the game, and he ended a drive by impressively breaking up a pass on fourth down. In a perfect world, the rookie would’ve been eased into the starting lineup. Instead, he’s being asked to be the team’s No. 1 cornerback. Stokes has been up to the enormous challenge so far. Now comes De’Andre Hopkins and Tyreek Hill in the span of 10 days.

4) Chandon Sullivan‘s game-clinching interception on a poorly thrown pass in the fourth quarter will get all the attention, but his work before that play was far more impressive. The veteran nickel back did a good job against Adam Humphries, holding the savvy slot receiver to three catches. Sullivan has really stepped up since the injury to Jaire Alexander, and that’ll need to continue if the secondary is to hold up against some elite QBs in the coming weeks.

5) Washington went after Henry Black every time he stepped on the field. The second-year safety allowed five catches for 60 yards in 17 snaps. He also took a poor angle on a screen pass that allowed J.D. McKissic to turn a 6-yard loss into an 11-yard gain. It’ll be interesting to see if the coaches give Vernon Scott a look on Thursday night. The seventh-round pick from the ’20 draft has yet to play in a game after sitting out most of camp with an injury.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS

1) Drafting or trading for a punter only makes sense if that player turns out to be special. It’s early and rough weather awaits, but Corey Bojorquez has sure been special through the first seven weeks of the season. His three punts on Sunday were fantastic. The first flipped the field from Green Bay’s 14 to Washington’s 37. The second flipped the field from Green Bay’s 6 to Washington’s 41. And the third – his best – was downed at the 3-yard line.


FINAL THOUGHTS: Sunday was yet another beautifully ugly win, and that’s just fine for a team missing seven starters. The defense was especially impressive. Holding any offense to 10 points in today’s NFL is a heck of an accomplishment.

Speaking of the defense, new coordinator Joe Barry definitely has his troops playing with more energy. That’s a big reason why he was hired to replace Mike Pettine after last season. Whether Barry, who won’t be available for Thursday night’s game against the undefeated Cardinals after testing positive for the coronavirus, has the chops and enough healthy players to slow down high-powered offenses remains to be seen. The Packers have faced only one quality quarterback through seven weeks, and the Bengals’ Joe Burrow is probably just outside the top-10.

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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

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